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An anxiety disorder can easily shroud your life in a dark cloud, preventing you from finding happiness and fulfillment. Talk therapy, specifically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is considered to be the most effective and long-term treatment — but therapy and relaxation techniques for anxiety alone do not cut it for everyone suffering from anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications can often deliver extreme and fairly immediate results that will drastically improve the lives of people with anxiety disorders. Are they an option for you?
What's Anxiety Disorder?
We're all familiar with anxiety, an unpleasant emotion that's the normal result of life stresses like ill relatives, worries about your child's performance in school, and trouble at work. Anxiety disorders, which include social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder, take anxiety to a whole other level. According to some estimates, between five and 20 percent of the population will suffer from an anxiety disorder at any given time. Fiona, a mother of three from Australia, told me:
The unrealistic, excessive worry Fiona used to suffer from is characteristic of generalized anxiety disorder. Along with constant fear and panic, other symptoms include a dry mouth, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, trouble sleeping, nausea, muscle tension, dizziness, and cold sweats. Anxiety can, in other words, take over your life, affecting everything you do and don't do.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Anxiety
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of talk therapy that targets the erroneous, unhealthy thought patterns that damage our quality of life. If you're participating in CBT sessions, your therapist will first work with you to make you aware of your own thoughts, and then to see where they are problematic. Techniques that stop unrealistic negative thoughts and worries right in their tracks are taught, along with relaxation and stress relief methods. Successful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will make those anxious thoughts less automatic, and can create a new habit of more realistic and positive thinking.
CBT is often held up as the only long-term solution to anxiety. Rather than temporarily suspending symptoms with medication, proponents say, this form of talk therapy aims to achieve structural improvements to last a lifetime.
"I had CBT for around 10 years, with no results," Fiona shared. That's a very long time. Though the length of treatment varies, those for whom Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is successful can often stop attending therapy after as few as eight to 10 sessions. Surely, Fiona's therapist should have recognized that CBT was simply not working for her after a whole decade?
"The neurologist I was seeing for severe headaches was the first person to acknowledge that not only were my thoughts around my medical problems abnormally anxious — I was convinced I had a brain tumor — but also was the CBT obviously not helping. He suggested medication. I saw a huge improvement within a week. It was wonderful. I had this 'aha moment' in which I thought, 'Oh, so this is how the normal brain functions?' Finally, I could think about other things, rather than worrying all the time."